I'm often asked can a child choose which parent to live with? And if so, at what age can my child choose which parent to live with? To answer the first question, in the state of Georgia, yes a child can choose.
From the ages of 11 to 14, the child can make what they call an election. They can fill out an affidavit that basically says I want to live with one parent over the other. For that age group that election is something that the court can consider. But the court is not bound at all by an election made from a child between the ages of 11 and 14. The court will still use the best interest of the child standards in determining whether or not that is in the child's best interest.
From age 14 on, a child can make that same election. But that election becomes what they call presumptive. In other words, the court presumes that is the correct place for that child unless it is not in the child's best interest. So, the court will somewhat consider the best interest of the child standards, but the child’s election carries a lot of weight with the court. In most cases, you must prove a parent is fairly unfit to overcome that election.
While children can make those elections, I would caution you. Please try not to put your children in the middle of these situations. It's very difficult for them to choose one parent over the other.
I'll never forget having a big, beefy football player who came in and made an election. He wanted to live with his dad. On the day of court, dad did not want him to be in court. But mom wanted him to be in court; so, the child sat in that courtroom. He looked over at his mom and he had huge tears that came down his eyes. Because it's very difficult to choose one parent over the other. So again, I would caution you about that.
The other thing to consider is games that are played with an election. You may have one parent that says, "If you choose to live with me, I will buy you a car or I will get you the video games." Or they offer whatever it is that is the hot button for that child. So, the child may play one parent against the other parent trying to see what would be to their advantage.
The issue for the child then is that once they make that election, they can't change that election for two years from the day that they made that election. So, they are stuck with whatever they have chosen in the election.
It is a very difficult issue to have the children in the middle of these things. So, if you don't have to have the child make an election, that's usually better for the child.
I have had other situations where the children have come in and they have definite opinion about where they want to live. And they have good factual reasons behind that election. So, in those situations, the children do not have the same emotional issues associated with choosing a parent. It's still hurtful to the other parent, but it's not like one parent is influencing the child over the other parent.
I hope this helped if you had any questions about at what age a child can choose which parent to live with in the state of Georgia. If you think it will help someone, please share and if you would like more information about divorce and family law in Georgia, please subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Nedra K. Howard
Nedra has represented clients in matters relating to divorce, separate maintenance, child custody and support, family violence protective orders, adoption, prenuptial agreements, business disputes and litigation, personal injury, property damage, and wills.
John B. MIller & Associates, P.C.
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Peachtree City, GA 30269
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